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Bureaucratic Justice: The Incarceration of Mainland Chinese Women Working in Hong Kong's Sex Industry

NCJ Number
International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology Volume: 51 Issue: 1 Dated: February 2007 Pages: 68-83
Karen Joe Laidler; Carole Petersen; Robyn Emerton
Date Published
February 2007
16 pages
This study analyzed the experiences of mainland Chinese women who were convicted and incarcerated in Hong Kong for sex work.
The analysis indicated that the criminal justice response to migrant sex workers was efficient and impersonal, with little regard expressed for individual circumstances or for defendants’ understanding of the charges or convictions. The consequence of this bureaucratic response has been the short-term incarceration of large numbers of migrant sex workers, which has caused the correctional population to expand beyond its capacity. The analysis also noted the lack of specific and general deterrent effect of imprisoning migrant sex workers and the significant resources required to imprison them. To rectify this situation, the authors suggest that alternative criminal justice responses should be considered, such as suspended sentences for first offenders coupled with legal advice regarding the nature of their offense and the criminal justice process. Larger changes to Kong Hong immigration law are also called for. Participants were 58 mainland Chinese women who were convicted and incarcerated in Hong Kong for 1 or more of the following crimes: (1) breach of condition of stay; (2) soliciting for an immoral purpose; (3) remaining in Hong Kong without authority; (4) possession of a forged identity document; or (5) false statement to an immigration officer. Data were collected in 2004 via voluntary, in-depth interviews that focused on the women’s demographic information, recruitment, travel to and mode of entry into Hong Kong, involvement of agents or organized crime groups, living and working conditions, experience with the criminal justice system, and future plan. Consultations were also conducted with two nongovernmental organizations and observations were made of cases heard in magistrates’ courts from July 2005 to April 2006. Notes, references